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California Briefing / Pomona

Schools chief in line for U.S. post

May 20, 2009|Mitchell Landsberg

Was it the video?

The superintendent of the Pomona Unified School District, whose students produced a video that was mentioned by President Obama in a speech in March, is being nominated to oversee kindergarten-through-12th-grade schooling as assistant secretary of Education, the White House announced Tuesday.

Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana was named California's superintendent of the year in November by the Assn. of California School Administrators. If confirmed by Congress, she would become a top advisor to Education Secretary Arne Duncan as assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.

As Pomona's superintendent since July 2006, Melendez has worked on a plan to reconfigure the grade span of some schools, pushed through a $235-million bond issue and introduced a new accountability system for student achievement, said Becca Bracy Knight, executive director of the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems.

Melendez is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy, funded by philanthropist Eli Broad.

"She's a reform-minded leader," Knight said. "She's deeply passionate about ensuring that all children can achieve."

During a speech about education in March, Obama praised Pomona's Village Academy High School, whose students had produced a video about how the economic recession was affecting their lives.

But, Knight said, "I'm sure she was on their radar screen before that."

-- Mitchell Landsberg

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